We want our students to read as much authentic Greek as possible from the first day of Greek 101. The benefits of drawing widely from the corpus of Greek literature and epigraphy are immeasurable. Whereas some beginning textbooks and readers are author driven, and thus ease students into the style of Plato or Homer only, students who read widely from Greek literature can better navigate between different authors, styles, vocabulary sets, and genres. The transition from grammar instruction to literature classes becomes smoother because such students have been reading literature all along. Students see, from day one, that the endless charts and lists we ask them to memorize have very real, practical, and immediate applications. They learn firsthand, from the Greeks themselves, about cultural institutions, practices, and values. Much of Homer, Herodotus, Euripides, and Plato is written in Greek that is accessible to students at any level. Our students enroll in Greek to learn to read literature, history, and philosophy. Why should we reserve these riches as a reward for those who have successfully completed the grammar exercises when we can utilize them as a carrot to encourage students to continue studying the language?
We are in the process of compiling a Greek Reader to address these very concerns. The selections in our book will be arranged to emphasize the points of Greek grammar and syntax that the individual texts highlight. Such an arrangement allows for the greatest flexibility in the classroom, as the collection will easily supplement and harmonize with any curriculum: a single selection can provide additional practice in syntax and translation during the first or last few minutes of a class session; a series of selections can provide the foundation of an entire class meeting; selections can be used for practice and/or testing in translating at sight; or the entire reader can be used as the core text of a comprehensive review of Greek grammar.
In general terms, the passages unfold in order of increasing difficulty; we present sentences that emphasize first and second declension nouns long before ones that feature –μι verbs and clauses with the optative. That said, we do believe that students should be challenged to confront the realities of “authentic Greek” early in their study of the language, and they should be encouraged to tackle unadapted Greek passages even before they have met every form or vocabulary word as part of their formal instruction. We provide brief contextualizing introductions for all the passages as well as extensive running vocabulary notes so that students can read the entries without needing to look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary.
In this presentation, we will discuss the authors from whom we have chosen our texts (from Aristotle to Xenophon); our criteria for selecting texts that best illustrate grammar, syntax, and Greek history or culture; our process of annotation and arrangement of the selected texts; and our suggestions for using such materials in the elementary Greek classroom to ensure that students derive the greatest benefit without further taxing overburdened instructors and overstuffed syllabi. The materials will be drawn broadly from the standard corpus and lesser known authors to provide the students with the fullest possible experience of Greek literature, history, and culture while rigorously covering all the salient points of grammar and syntax that are presented in all the standard beginning Greek textbooks. We hope to inspire other instructors to incorporate as much authentic Greek as possible into even the first days of Beginning Greek.